Pregnancy Tips

6 Tips to Help You Through Your Summer Pregnancy

With the summer heat in full blaze and ever-rising temperatures, it’s even more important during the summer months that you take care of your health and body as an expecting mother, especially considering that August is the most popular month for birthdays, according to the CDC. While you are probably eager to welcome your new baby to the world, you should make sure to take extra precautions in the months leading up. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #1: Stay hydrated

It’s especially important that you’re staying hydrated in the summer heat while you’re pregnant. Being dehydrated when you’re expecting can increase your risk of headaches, constipation, more swelling, or, in extreme cases, experiencing contractions. So in addition to the 8 glasses of water that’s recommended for everyone, you have to think about replacing the water you’re losing when you’re sweating. It’s not just hotter outside; pregnant women are hotter by nature. In the first trimester, the progesterone hormone increases your body temperature. 

But, water can get a little boring so get creative with your water intake. Try smoothies with lots of ice, frozen fruit, and a little yogurt. Or maybe take the smoothie, freeze it, and turn it into a refreshing popsicle. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #2: Stay cool in comfy, breathable clothes

It is important that you stay cool during your pregnancy and this means not only cranking up the AC to match your level of comfort but also wearing clothes that allow your body to breathe and keep your sweat to a minimum. Looser silhouettes are a good option and a hat is a great way to top off an outfit and reduce sun exposure. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #3: Keep your feet elevated

Swelling during pregnancy is practically inevitable because when you’re expecting, your body produces 50% more fluids than when you’re not pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Standing for extended periods of time will only make the swelling worse but sitting with your feet kicked up on an elevated surface can help to alleviate the discomfort. Bear in mind that very salty foods can make you swell even more especially when paired with pregnancy and heat, so you may want to avoid salty foods to keep from further exacerbating it. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #4: Wear comfortable shoes

There are so many summer shoes out there that are just not pregnancy-friendly because they don’t provide enough support for your feet. If you choose sandals, we recommend a pair that cradles your foot and can be adjusted as your feet swell and shrink. Flip flops and some other sandal styles don’t provide enough arch support and as your belly grows, you are more likely to have back pain and supportive shoes help to prevent that.

Summer Pregnancy Tip #5: Lather on the sunscreen

Sun protection is always key but because your skin has increased sensitivity to the sun during pregnancy, it’s especially important that you are applying and reapplying non-chemical sunscreen regularly. Exposure to the sun can not only cause dehydration, but it can also worsen melasma or the skin hyperpigmentation that can often come with pregnancy. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #6: Plan your outdoor time

As tempting as it may be, now is not the time to be lying on the beach on the hottest days. If you are going to the beach, do so in short intervals in the early morning or evenings so as to avoid the hottest hours of the day. 

Swimming is a great form of exercise while pregnant: it’ll cool you down, reduce swelling in your joints, and give you that weightless feeling that takes some of that pressure away. But be careful what pools you’re swimming in, only pools that are clean and don’t reek of chlorine. 

Other gentle forms of exercise are a great idea as long as you are, once again, doing them when the temperatures are cooler. A gentle morning hike or gardening session in the morning or an hour of prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated studio midday are great. 

What to Expect At A Gynecologist Visit

What to Expect At A Gynecologist Appointment

Let’s start today’s topic off with a firm understanding of what role different doctors play in a woman’s life. A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health. Obstetricians care for women during their pregnancy and just after the baby is born; they also deliver babies. An OBGYN, on the other hand, is trained to do all of these things. 

Now, because they deal with such personal and sensitive topics, the thought of visiting an OBGYN may make you feel nervous, embarrassed, and reluctant to discuss your most intimate issues with someone who is essentially a stranger. We get it, it may feel a little uncomfortable. So that’s why we’re here to take the dread out of your annual appointments with some tips on feeling more comfortable with your OBGYN and an idea of what you can expect at your checkups. 

When Should You First Visit the Gyno?

College should not be your first rodeo with a gynecologist. We highly recommend that between the ages of 13 and 15 you touch base with a gynecologist, find out what we do, and tell us a little about your medical history if you feel so inclined. It doesn’t have to be a super long or in-depth visit, but we find that in establishing a relationship with your gyno from a young age, you’re setting yourself up for a much better and more comfortable relationship later. If you don’t feel entirely comfortable disclosing to your gyno, find another provider. You have a choice in the matter because it’s your care. 

Preparing for Your Visit

Avoid having sex or douching within 24 hours of your pending appointment as this can irritate your vagina and impact the results of your Pap test. 

Before you even enter the office, you should be clear on the purpose of the visit. Not all visits require an exam. There are numerous other situations in which an exam is not necessary; for example, the first time you meet your gynecologist which mimics more of a meet and greet than a typical doctor’s office visit. Or maybe you just want to discuss your contraceptive options, family planning, your irregular periods, etc. But one thing is for sure: there shouldn’t be any surprises on either your or your provider’s end going into your appointment. 

What Happens at a Gynecologist Visit

When you get to your appointment, it is your gyno’s job to make sure everyone is on the same page and review how exactly how this exam will go. If an exam is taking place, have them go over the specifics that entails: will there be a breast or pelvic exam? How do these things work? It’s important to remember that nothing should be happening to you during your appointment without your consent or feeling “comfortable” about it. 

Your medical history should and will be discussed thoroughly including (but not limited to) your surgical history, current medications, family history, inquiries into your smoking, drinking, and drug habits, and reviewing medical issues you may have. Even though we’re a gynecologist, we aren’t here just to talk about your sexual history; getting to know you a little more personally in terms of your medical history helps us provide the best care to you that we possibly can. 

Generally, your appointment will start with a health check. The nurse will take your weight and blood pressure; you may also have to provide blood and urine samples. Then you’ll move into the physical exam in which you’ll be asked to undress and change into a gown that opens in the front and a sheet to cover your lap. 

Your OBGYN will ask you questions typically about your personal and family health history, periods and any problems they may cause, if you’re sexually active and how often, birth control options, vaccine history, and any sexually transmitted diseases you’ve had or think you might have. Questions might get personal but it’s important that you provide your doctor with completely honest answers for her/him to provide the best care possible. You should also use this time to ask questions that you might have about any of the above topics or more. You may feel embarrassed asking them but trust us when we say, we’ve heard it all before. 

As a part of your physical exam, the doctor will examine the outside of your vagina for abnormalities and then examine your reproductive organs from the inside. During this exam, your knees will be bent, your feet up in stirrups and the gynecologist will use a speculum to hold the vagina open while she exams it and your cervix. This shouldn’t feel painful, more like pressure. Your gyno will then take a sample of cells from your cervix using a small brush for a Pap test; the cells will then be sent to a lab and checked for abnormalities that could signify cervical cancer or HPV.

If you are sexually active, your doctor will likely test you for sexually transmitted diseases with a cotton swab during your pelvic exam and/or checking your blood test. Your OBGYN might also do a breast exam to check for any lumps or abnormalities.

After your exam, a nurse will follow up with any test results over the phone or by email. 

Your Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care physician and office staff will do everything within our power to make sure you understand the different elements of your exam and feel as comfortable as possible.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Top 11 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

With the Internet, your friends, and family all saying different things, it can be a little confusing what foods are safe to consume during pregnancy and which foods you should no-way-under-any-circumstances eat. Don’t worry – we’ve got you!

Here is a list of what you should not eat during pregnancy, why they can be harmful, and some alternatives to help you avoid them entirely.

1) Raw Meat

Rare or undercooked beef or poultry can affect you and your baby with coliform bacteria, parasites, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. 

Meats are a little tricky because there are so many different ways you can cook them. Your best bet, when cooking and eating meat, is to check the internal temperature based on this chart:

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

2) Fish High in Mercury

Fish containing high levels of mercury have been linked to developmental delays and brain damage when consumed during pregnancy. You should avoid albacore tuna (most commonly used to make canned tuna) and certain types of fish used in sushi due to high levels of mercury.

A little bit won’t hurt, but for the most part, you should avoid high mercury intake or it could have serious effects on your and your baby’s immune and nervous systems. 

3) Raw and Smoked Fish

Just like raw meat, raw and smoked fish (including shellfish: oysters, clams, and mussels) run the risk of being contaminated with bacteria and parasites, the most common of which is listeria. 

Pregnancy makes you 20 times more likely to be infected by listeria because pregnant individuals have a naturally depressed cell-mediated immune system. Listeria can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health issues. 

If you’re a sushi lover, you should avoid it during your pregnancy as even the highest quality sushi can be dangerous to yours and your baby’s health. If you are absolutely craving sushi, go for the rolls made of cooked shrimp, salmon, and crab and you’ll find that they satisfy your craving just as much.

4) Pre-packaged Deli and Canned Meat

These have also been linked to listeria, which can lead to infection or blood poisoning and can be seriously life-threatening. 

Because the food generally is exposed to bacteria during the processing and storing time, canned or deli meats are ok to eat if you reheat them until they are steaming. But if not, fresh meat is just a safer option.

5) Raw Eggs 

Due to potential exposure to salmonella, raw eggs or foods containing them should not be consumed. 

That includes homemade Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, Hollandaise sauces, and yes even that raw cookie dough that is so tempting when you’re baking, no matter how good it looks. 

Commercially manufactured ice creams, dressings, and eggnog generally use pasteurized eggs, which don’t carry the risk of salmonella, so those are your best bet during your pregnancy.

6) Unpasteurized Milk

While you may be under the impression that raw milk has health benefits that pasteurized milk doesn’t offer, you’re exposing yourself and your baby to harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. 

Pasteurized milk is an easy alternative.

7) Unpasteurized Juice

Same applies as above but maybe you’re just unsure what qualifies as “unpasteurized juice.” Fresh cider from a farm or freshly squeezed juices, as delicious and fresh as you think they may taste, can also contain harmful bacteria.

8) Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses are often made with unpasteurized milk, so again they can contain bacteria, specifically listeria. Most imported soft cheeses are made this way including Brie, Bleu, Feta, Camembert, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Mexican cheeses like queso blanco. 

Soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk do exist and can be consumed while you’re pregnant, so just check the ingredients list.

9) Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a balanced diet but, it is also essential that they are thoroughly washed to avoid potential exposure to Toxoplasma. This is a bacteria derived from contaminated soil where the foods were grown and can leave your baby with brain damage or blindness. 

10) Excess Caffeine

While studies seem to show varying results as to whether or not caffeine intake in moderation during pregnancy is permissible, we say err on the side of caution. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day (about an 11-ounce cup of coffee). Caffeine has been related to miscarriages so it should not be consumed excessively, particularly during the first trimester. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it eliminates fluids (water and calcium) from your body, fluids that are essential to a healthy baby’s growth. 

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, pasteurized juices, and milk. 

11) Alcohol

While studies have shown different results for caffeine, not a single one has shown that any amount of alcohol consumption, no matter how minimal, is safe during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of your baby and lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other developmental disorders. 

If you consumed alcohol before knowing you were pregnant, stop drinking now and continue through breastfeeding. Exposure to alcohol in any capacity can be harmful to an infant and yes, it can reach them through breastfeeding.

Conceive

Ready to Conceive? You Should Do These Things First

If you’re ready to have a baby, there are some things beyond the birds-and-bees basics that you learned in a middle school biology class that you should know before trying to conceive. While you don’t have to meticulously plan every detail of motherhood, there are ways you can adjust your lifestyle that will enhance your fertility. So if you’re ready to conceive, you should do these things first. 

Track Your Cycle

The best time to conceive is right around ovulation so it’s important to know when you’re ovulating. Ovulation normally happens about midway through your cycle, about 11-14 days after the first day of your menstrual period. But because menstrual cycles can vary so extensively from person to person, it’s a good idea to track your cycle for several months, keeping track of when you start your period, how long it lasts, and when you are ovulating. Your most fertile days are the two or three before and after actual ovulation, so plan to have intercourse multiple times during that time window. 

Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins

Studies have shown that taking a multivitamin with folic acid – an active ingredient in prenatal vitamins – dramatically lowers the risk of birth defects and helps the body to produce healthy new cells. This vitamin can’t be stored in your body which is why we recommend that women who are ready to conceive should take a multivitamin fortified with folic acid ideally three months before you conceive. 

If You Smoke, Quit Now

Smoking during pregnancy is a huge no-no as it can have serious negative consequences for the fetus, so it pays to quit before you even reach that stage. There is a direct correlation between smoking and reduced fertility so smoking can affect both your ability to get and stay pregnant. But we bear some good news: this mostly affects current smokers rather than those who have quit. Determine that you’ll quit now and if you feel it’ll help, talk to a provider about how to do it effectively. 

Watch Your Weight

Being over or underweight can affect your hormones and, as a result, throw off your menstrual cycle and fertility. When you’re trying to conceive, one of the most important things you can do is try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight, which includes an optimal BMI of 19 to 25. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 12% of all infertility cases are the result of “deviations in body weight from the established norm.” Women who are underweight may lose their menstrual cycles or have irregular ovulation, making it difficult to know when you’re most fertile or ovulating.

Reduce Stress

Stress is inevitable during this time; even just the stress of trying to have a baby can put stress on your body and make it difficult to conceive. Stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol, which can impact many of the body’s systems and interfere with a normal hormone balance. 

If you are someone who finds it difficult to relax, strive to make it more than a bullet on your to-do list. Create a routine around taking time to de-stress and relax, something that works for you and can look different from another woman’s routine. This might include regular exercise that aids in stress reduction like meditation, yoga, pilates, deep breathing, creating a more consistent sleep schedule, or eating healthy foods that you take the time to cook yourself.

pregnancy do’s and don’ts

The Do’s and Don’ts of Pregnancy

How much coffee can I drink while I’m pregnant? Can I continue my after-workout routine of sweating all the toxins out in a sauna? Is it unsafe to clean up after my cat? Then what about my dog? Chances are, since finding out you’re pregnant, you’ve had a lot of questions about what you can and can’t do and you’ve probably received a lot of well-meaning albeit unwarranted advice from outside sources. So what are the true pregnancy do’s and don’ts that are important for you to follow in order to maintain yours and your baby’s health? Well, we’ve got you covered.

Do

Take prenatal multivitamins

During your pregnancy, you’ll require more vitamins and minerals than before you were pregnant. Folic acid and zinc are just two examples of the vitamins you’ll need so you should start taking prenatal vitamins which help to lower the risk of neural birth defects once you find out you’re pregnant. 

Get ample sleep

There are a lot of factors at play during pregnancy that could negatively affect your sleep schedule: there’s not only the changing hormone levels but also the anxiety and anticipation. Sleep is especially necessary during the demanding throes of the final trimester so you should schedule naps whenever you have the time, set bedtimes, and stick to them. Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night to fend off the feelings of fatigue that are practically inevitable. 

Work out

Exercise is good for both mama and baby and can be used to combat problems that tend to arise during pregnancy like excessive weight gain, insomnia, mood swings, and muscle pain. Speak with your doctor about making adjustments to your workout routine if you regularly exercised before you became pregnant. This is especially important as you move into the second and third trimesters. 

If exercise was not a part of your regular routine before pregnancy, ask your doctor about incorporating it into your routine now. They can help you develop an exercise plan that’s safe and comfortable for you and your developing baby. 

Yoga is a great exercise when you’re expecting – excluding hot yoga or Bikram. Look for prenatal or gentle yoga classes as they are specifically designed for expecting mothers and the instructors will know which poses are best for your condition. 

Monitor weight gain

The old adage that you are eating for two is not just an excuse for expecting mothers to eat absolute junk for the entirety of her pregnancy. You should be strategic about what you’re putting in your body and how much you’re consuming. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can actually harm your baby.

You may be surprised to find out that during your first trimester, you only need to consume about 100 extra calories a day to support the growing baby. By your third trimester, that number jumps to about 300 extra calories per day. 

Watch what you eat

There are lots of foods out there that are not safe to eat during pregnancy: raw and undercooked meat and eggs, seafood containing high levels of mercury, unpasteurized milk and cheese, and deli meats. For a complete list of what to eat during pregnancy and what to avoid check out our article here.

Avoid harmful fumes

We know you may have been looking forward to painting your nursery since you found out you were pregnant but the chemicals and solvents in paint can be toxic and harmful to you and your baby. If you want to paint the nursery, you should use natural or organic paints. 

Don’t

Smoke

Smoke, even breathed in secondhand, is linked to many complications such as miscarriage, cancer, premature delivery, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, or developmental issues as the baby grows up. Contact with tobacco should be avoided at all costs.

Drink Alcohol

No amount of alcohol is safe for consumption during pregnancy as it can result in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and symptoms like learning disabilities, lagging development, low birth weight, and behavioral problems. 

If you are struggling to quit drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor immediately. The sooner you seek help, the healthier your baby is likely to be. 

Sit in a hot tub or sauna

The high temperatures in hot tubs and saunas can be dangerous to an expecting mother as sitting in them can raise the body temperature, causing problems that can increase the risk of birth defects or miscarriage, particularly during the first trimester. 

Drink lots of caffeine

Different sources will recommend different amounts of coffee consumption during pregnancy, but we say err on the side of caution. One cup a day is a safe amount to consume. 

Clean the cat’s litter box

You might be surprised to hear that this is a don’t during pregnancy but feline waste is filled with millions of parasites and bacteria that can cause toxoplasmosis and severely harm your baby. If you come into contact with it, you might not even know until you have complications with your pregnancy that could potentially include a miscarriage or stillbirth. You can pet your furry friend all you like, washing your hands afterward, but stay away from its litter box. 

If you’re searching for an effective alternative, there are self-cleaning litter boxes on the market. 

Use products that let off electromagnetic radiation

This may be one you haven’t heard of often but there are plenty of products that emit harmful electromagnetic radiation that can harm the fetus and lead to miscarriages. This includes microwaves, electric blankets, waterbeds, and X-rays, particularly in the abdominal area.

Menopause

What is Menopause and How Can I Manage the Symptoms?

Menopause, which quite literally means the pause of menses (your period), is likely something you’ve heard of before: maybe from your mom or an older sister or friend. While some women can manage to skate right through this time with little to no symptoms, others experience all the classics: hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and trouble sleeping. But, although people are quick to talk about a few of the symptoms they’re experiencing, you will notice that far fewer people talk about the whole picture. That’s exactly why we’re here to give you the bigger picture of what life after menopause looks like. Knowing what you can expect can help to alleviate your worries, help you effectively treat your symptoms, and lower the risks of certain conditions and diseases that can come as a result. 

What is happening to my body during menopause?

The transition to menopause, formally called perimenopause, takes place over the course of several years. You’ll know you are officially in menopause when you have not gotten your period for 12 months straight. The ovaries gradually stop producing estrogen resulting in hormonal fluctuations as the body adjusts to what can be characterized as the shut-down of the ovaries. By the 12-month mark, your ovaries have significantly reduced the production of both hormones estrogen and progesterone. 

This can result in some metabolic and physiological changes that over time affect your body’s composition. 

Managing your menopause symptoms

Women often will try to manage their menopause symptoms on their own for fear of embarrassment in reporting the issues they’re experiencing to their provider. But there’s no need to be embarrassed and we encourage you to speak openly about your symptoms and work with your healthcare provider to find an effective treatment. That may come in the form of hormonal replacement therapy, non-medical methods like exercise and a modified diet, or other treatments tailored to your needs. 

Many of the changes that occur during menopause – anxiety, mood swings, and depression to name a few – are not physical changes but are the result of hormone changes. When coupled with physical changes, these emotional changes can wreak havoc on your life and sleep schedule. That’s why it’s so important to speak to your provider who can assist you in developing a treatment plan that’s right for you. 

 

What does life after menopause look like?

Life after menopause doesn’t have to look that different from life before, especially if you maintain an open line of communication with your doctor. 

There are some ways you can minimize your menopausal symptoms (we’ll talk a little more about that later) that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. But you should also make sure you are getting regular health screenings and staying up to date on vaccines in order to prevent health concerns from becoming a bigger deal later. 

What can I do to minimize my symptoms?

Increase exercise

Exercise, no matter the intensity, is highly beneficial for women who are post-menopausal. As we’ve mentioned, menopause can result in weight gain, so in order to counteract that change in body composition, physical activity is necessary. Want to know something pretty great? This is one area where being post-menopausal gives you a leg up: physical activity has a greater impact on your body after menopause than before. So even if you engage in light physical activity, you will likely see the positive effects. Small lifestyle changes like gardening and walking can make a big difference. 

Watch what you eat

The best way to maintain your target body composition may require a permanent change in your lifestyle and routine rather than the dieting approaches you may have taken in the past. Instead of taking a restrictive dieting approach, focus on just watching what you eat and drink; choose nutritious foods while limiting processed foods, alcohol, and sweets. 

Get plenty of sleep

A well-known result of menopause is a lack of sleep which can then affect hormones that control other aspects of your body. Practicing good sleep habits means trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night and implementing practices that promote quality sleep: regular exercise, decreased caffeine, avoiding long naps, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.

Irregular periods

What’s Causing My Irregular Periods?

Abnormal menstrual cycles are a difficult issue to pinpoint as hormones are a tricky subject and can impact a number of different factors and bodily systems. In order to understand how you can regulate menstruation and balance hormones naturally, it’s important to know the potential causes and lifestyle habits that can negatively affect your hormonal levels. 

Having a regular, moderately pain-free period each month is a good indication that your hormones are in balance and the reproductive system is working properly. But the opposite is also true: irregular and missed periods, or very painful, intense PMS symptoms could be a sign that your hormone levels are out of whack — either lacking or too high. 

The 8 Most Common Causes of Irregular or Missed Periods

Besides being pregnant and going through menopause, which both naturally stop a woman from getting her period, here are the other major causes of missed or irregular periods:

Cause #1: High Stress Levels

When you’re under a lot of stress for an extended period of time, your body makes an effort to conserve energy as a sort of fight or flight response. As a result, it will prevent ovulation because this is a process that your body sees as secondary when compared to survival. Several factors could contribute to this — experiencing a traumatic event, restricting your eating, and exercising an excessive amount could cause irregularity (repeated fight or flight). The body gives priority to producing stress hormones that will help you survive in a crisis, so sex hormone production takes a backseat. 

When estrogen level falls below normal, you aren’t able to build up the uterine lining (that you are shedding during your period) so as a result, you don’t get your period. 

Cause #2: A Poor Diet

A diet that’s low in nutrients, antioxidants, and probiotic foods yet high in stimulants takes a toll on the adrenal glands and thyroid. For example, eating a diet that’s high in sugar, hydrogenated fats, and artificial additives is linked with thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue that can raise cortisol. Excess cortisol hinders the function of many other essential hormones, including sex hormones. It also can lead to the breakdown of bones, skin, muscles, and brain tissue if you continue to maintain high levels over a long period of time. If you’re not experiencing regular menstruation, make sure you’re eating enough food and that’s the right kind: foods that are high in antioxidants, nutrient-dense, and with plenty of protein.

Cause #3: Extreme Weight Loss and Low BMI

When your body mass index (BMI) falls below 18 or 19, you may miss your period because of the lack of body fat, which is essential in the creation of estrogen. A diet that’s low in calories and fat can result in nutritional deficiencies that contribute to irregular periods and bone loss. This is not to say that every woman that experiences missed or irregular periods will be underweight or nutritionally deficient. Many are at a normal weight and some are even what is considered “overweight” on the BMI scale. (this might not need to be stated since the article is all about varied reasons periods are irregular)

Cause #4: Over-Exercising

Moderate exercise is essential to heart health, mood regulation, a good sleep schedule, and maintaining a healthy body weight, however, too much exercise can put excess pressure on your adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands. Women who start vigorously exercising (for example, you’ve started training for a marathon) can stop getting their period suddenly. The stress hormone, cortisol, will be released in response to a real or perceived stress, physical (like exercise) or emotional. With the societal pressures today for women to stay thin and in shape, some will feel they need to exercise more than a healthy amount. This kind of exertion can increase stress and deplete the body of energy that it needs to regulate and release sex hormones.

Cause #5: Thyroid Disasters

Although this may be an indiscernible problem, your thyroid can cause many issues related to hormonal imbalances. Studies have shown that thyroid disorders may actually be one of the leading causes of missed periods, affecting nearly 15% of amenorrhea patients. The thyroid gland largely controls your metabolism and impacts many sex hormones, therefore, thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can cause widespread symptoms like changes in estrogen and therefore missed periods. (shorten sentence, repetitive)

Cause #6: Change in Birth Control Methods

Some women will stop getting their period, somewhat intentionally, while on birth control and will notice that even when they stop the pill, their period doesn’t return. While we advise that a woman’s period should adjust within a few months of stopping the pill, many women will experience missed or irregular periods for years afterward. 

A woman’s menstrual cycle is composed of rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone, but when taking birth control pills, estrogen levels are sufficiently high to fool the body into thinking it’s pregnant, resulting in irregular periods. When you switch from one birth control method to another or quit birth control altogether, it can take the body many months or even years to return to homeostasis.

 Cause #7: Ongoing Hormonal Imbalances and Disorders

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance in women that negatively impacts ovulation. A woman with PCOS experiences altered levels of sex hormones that can result in abnormal bodily functions including blood sugar problems, abnormal facial body hair growth, weight gain, acne, and irregular menstrual cycles. It can also lead to premature menopause, occurring prior to the age of 40, which can cause missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. 

Cause #8: Food Allergies and Sensitivities

An undiagnosed gluten sensitivity or celiac disease – meaning you are not taking medication or monitoring it – can both impact your hormone levels. These conditions can result in nutrient deficiencies, negatively affect gut health, and add chronic stress to your adrenal glands, which have the ability to affect sex hormone production.

While some of these causes are relatively unavoidable, it’s crucial that you are paying honest attention to how each element of your lifestyle affects your health; that way you can make choices to eliminate or tweak aspects that may be causing irregular periods. If you’ve been dealing with missed periods for a while, speak to your doctor about running some important tests that can find hormone imbalances and other issues. Many experts will recommend a three-tier treatment strategy that looks something like this: 1) Make appropriate diet, lifestyle, and stress-reduction changes; 2) Use natural remedies when you need extra support; and 3) Only if you find that those aren’t working, discuss hormonal pills or procedures with your healthcare provider. 

Pap Smears

Everything You Need to Know About Pap Smears

What is a Pap Smear?

A Pap smear, formally known as the Papanicolaou test, is a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and examined using a microscope. The test is used to detect cell abnormalities that could potentially be a sign of cervical cancer or other conditions, such as infection, HPV, and inflammation. A Pap smear is the best means to discover precancerous conditions and concealed tumors that may lead to cervical cancer. 

So, what exactly happens during a Pap smear? Well, we’re glad you asked. When performing a Pap smear, your gynecologist will insert a speculum into the vagina in order to widen the opening and exam both the cervix and the vagina. The doctor then takes a sample of the cervical cells using either a small spatula or brush. These samples are then placed into a solution, transferred into a small glass slide, and sent to a laboratory for cytological examination. 

Why Should I Get a Pap Smear?

The primary benefit of a Pap smear test is that it screens for cervical cancer and has saved the lives of many women since it’s discovery in the mid-1900s. Cervical cancer occurs when cervical cells become abnormal and expand uncontrollably over time. The cancer cells invade deep into the cervical tissue and, in advanced cases, the cancer cells spread to other organs in the body.

What to Do If Your Pap Smear Is Abnormal

Pap test results can take as long as three weeks. If your test results come back normal, you can wait up to three years before your next Pap smear. 

If a test indicates that something is abnormal, it does not mean that you have cancer, but an abnormal test does mean that the cells of the cervix do not look normal. Because Pap smears are a screening test and not a diagnostic test, it cannot tell for certain that cancer is present. An abnormal test could indicate that there is inflammation or minor cell changes called dysplasia – these cells look abnormal but are not cancerous. 

Whatever the case may be, your doctor will contact you in order to schedule a follow-up. In many cases, immediate treatment can prevent cervical cancer from developing, so early detection and following up is critical. 

Most issues that end up being non-cancerous but are still detected in a Pap smear tend to clear up or go back to normal on their own. In order to verify that this is the case, your doctor will probably recommend having a follow-up test within the next few months.

How to Prepare For Your Pap Smear

When Should You Start Getting Screened?

Women should have a Pap smear every two years starting at the age of 21. After age 30, you may choose to receive the HPV test, performed at the same time as your Pap smear. You may also choose to decrease the frequency to every three years if you’re low-risk and have always had normal results up to this age. 

Despite what many women believe, you are never too old for a Pap test. Most women over 65 do not need Pap smears, but it may be necessary if you have had treatment for precancerous or cancerous cells in the past 20 years. However, women that have had regular screenings in the previous 10 years and haven’t had precancerous cells found in the last 20 years should stop cervical cancer screenings. 

Before Getting a Pap Smear

There are certain things that you must avoid doing prior to getting a Pap smear:

  • Having sex
  • Using a tampon
  • Douching
  • Using medicine or cream in your vagina
  • Using spermicidal treatments

You’ll also want to avoid scheduling your Pap smear during your period because although the test can be done during a menstrual cycle, it is best to avoid that if possible. Cervical screening results are not always active and can sometimes show abnormal cells where they are not present. These are all things that can potentially cause a false-negative result due to the presence of inflamed cells. 

Don’t Skip Your Pap Smear

The momentary discomfort of a Pap smear is well worth the lifesaving results that can come from them. Pap smears are one of the most reliable cancer screenings currently available. 

It is important that you are taking your health needs into account that are specific to being a woman and not simply ignoring them. At Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care, we want to make sure you are healthy through all the seasons of your life. During your well-woman exam, your provider can screen for health problems and answer any of your questions and concerns.

Stress During Pregnancy

Managing Stress During Pregnancy

Let’s face it: pregnancy can be uncomfortable. And it can be stressful. You have people on all sides telling you that it’s such a wonderful time, that every change your body is undergoing is completely normal and natural, and all the while, you’re feeling too guilty to admit that those physical changes are leaving you feeling stressed. 

The morning sickness, mood swings, fatigue, hunger, not to mention the weight gain almost makes it feel like you’re no longer in control of your body. 

We want to assure you that it’s perfectly okay to have these mixed feelings about all these life changes. If you’re feeling stressed about your pregnancy, take heart in the fact that there are many ways to make the time during your pregnancy easier and way less stressful and they all boil down to these two lifestyle changes:

  1. Realize that you’ll have to develop new coping skills and routines during your pregnancy to carry over after the baby arrives. 
  2. Take time to organize your life to accommodate pregnancy and a new family dynamic.

Develop New Coping Skills and Routines Now

One of the most important things for you to do at this time is to take a step back and look at your current lifestyle: are you making time for the most important things – family, friends, relaxation, hobbies? Is there room in your schedule to accommodate new lifestyle changes? 

It may be hard to wrap your mind around it, but many aspects of your reality will have to change during and after pregnancy. Ask yourself these important questions:

  1. What aspects of my daily life are incompatible with my pregnancy or with a new baby? Maybe you commute by bicycle to work and will have to find another mode of transportation. Or maybe you go out with your partner every week and have a glass of wine with friends and you realize that you’ll have to find new places to hang out. Whatever it may be, taking stock of these changes before they need to happen will save you a lot of stress in the future.
  2. How do I currently manage stress? Can I use these same methods during pregnancy? If not, what are some other methods I could try? Let’s say you used to meet for cocktails with your girlfriends to relieve stress after a long week. Maybe instead you and those same friends go to a yoga class and then meet for tea after. A much more pregnancy-friendly option.
  3. How can my partner and I communicate productively? Good communication is absolutely key during this time. If you are feeling frustrated or need more from your partner, tell them. 
  4. Are we financially prepared? It’s no secret that children can be expensive but with prior planning, it is completely manageable. Determine if you will need to adjust the household budget and how you want to go about doing that. Consult a professional if this is an area you don’t feel completely comfortable in.
  5. Will it be beneficial to set boundaries with family? A new baby is an exciting time for both you and your family but you have to decide how intimate of an involvement you want between your baby, your family, and your in-laws. Are there certain topics you don’t want them involved in? Let them know that before the baby even arrives. 

If you need help evaluating these questions, don’t hesitate to consult with your provider. We’ve been through this many times and we’re here to help!

Organize Your Life to Minimize Stress

The best way to handle stress is to get ahead of it and this is just as applicable during pregnancy. If you modify your life as early as you can, then it won’t all hit you at once and knock you off your feet. Here are our suggestions:

  • Formulate new routines early on in your pregnancy: Your life after the baby is born is going to look a bit different and it’s best to establish those new routines before that time comes. This might include meal prepping on the weekends, creating grocery lists rather than roaming around the store for hours, and making plans to see friends rather than relying on spontaneous hang-outs.
  • Write things down: hormonal changes can cause pregnant women to become a little forgetful. It’s completely natural but there are also easy ways to combat this. Write down your new schedule, jot down reminders and to-do lists, record important dates in the calendar app on your phone and set reminders. If this isn’t something you do regularly, now is the perfect time to start.
  • Create a list of activities that relieve stress for you so that before you even get stressed, you know exactly how to cope with it. Here are some ideas: going for a walk, meditating, taking a long bath, pampering yourself, getting a professional pedicure, etc.. 
  • Find an unbiased sounding board: Find someone – a therapist, a local or online community of mothers, etc. – with whom you can speak openly about your stress. Because they have no involvement in your pregnancy but they do have knowledge of prior experience, they can provide you with feedback that gives you the reassurance that what you’re going through is normal. 

Have you ever heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? This quote is just as applicable in managing stress during pregnancy as with any medical procedure. Many women go through postpartum blues due to changes in hormones and lifestyle. Preparing for these changes prior to them occurring will help in keeping you grounded after your new baby is born.

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Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care consists of over 30 OB/GYN facilities and 5 Imaging Centers throughout the Hampton Roads community
Corporate Office
757-455-8833

Corporate Office
6353 Center Drive, Suite 100
Norfolk, Virginia 23502

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